When I was eighteen or nineteen, my then boyfriend gave me a children’s book called Never Satisfied as a gift. On each page of the book, the narrator keeps complaining to his friend that “nothing ever happens around here.” Meanwhile, in the background, the readers watch as somebody starts throwing animals and furniture–a couch, a piano–out of the second story window of a building. The narrator never gets it, never sees all the exciting things happening all around him. Rather, he just keeps complaining that life is boring. I got the gentle message that Tommy was sending, that I was so focused on the life I *wanted*, on my goals and dreams, that I never got around to appreciating the life I already had.
I wish I could say that seeing the truth changed how I lived or how I looked at the world. But it didn’t. To this day, “never satisfied’ describes the emotional core of my life.
Now, there are a lot of ways that you could interpret the phrase “never satisfied.” Some women always want more wealth, more things, expensive jewlery, flashy material items. Read More
I had a two hour longÂ conversation today with the editor of a small publishing company here in the Bay Area that specializes in science fiction. We were discussing the nature of y. a. literature, and I said that I think I write y.a. literature for two reasons. “It was what I loved to read as a kid, and I never stopped loving to read it,” I said. “And I guess that’s really the only reason I write y.a. literature. But when someone asks me why, and I feel compelled to give a writerly answer, I say, ‘Teenagers change more in one month than most adults do in a year or even two years. Who wouldn’t find that kind of time period exciting to write about?’”
I just had to quote his response! I’m not naming him because I’m not sure he wants to be quoted but first he talked about how the concept of homosexuality was never bizarre to him because he first encountered it in science fiction literature when he was in fourth grade. So by the time he actually met gays and lesbians and transgendered folks, they felt familiar to him. I would have to say likewise to all sorts of concepts we meet in books for the first time–concepts like redemption, and acceptance of others, and joy-pain-sorrow.
“The truth is,” he said, “books are transformative and subversive. By publishing books, I’m doing the work of God.”
This weekend, I had three appearances at the Wisconsin Book Festival in Madison. Here I am, appearing on a panel with (from left to right) Marlene Kim Connor Lynch of Connor Literary Agency, Nichole Shields of Connor Literary Agency, Marcela Landres (editorial consultant), Jessica Powers of Catalyst Book Press, and Ken Waldman, Alaska’s Fiddling Poet and author of Are You Famous? Touring America With Alaska’s Fiddling Poet, published by Catalyst Book Press.
I had a great time at the Children’s Authors Breakfast at the BEA. I can only wish that I was as funny as Eoin Colfer andÂ Sherman Alexie, and I can also only wish that someday I’ll be as big as Judy Blume and Neil Gaiman. I was particularly anxious to hear them talk about why they write for children, as I’ll need to make an argument for more latino/-a writers writing for children at the Reforma National Conference in September.
Yes, Colfer really does look that geeky in real life.
Publisher’s Weekly has kindly written an article on the breakfast, saving me the trouble, but actually, it was much funnier in person than what the stolid article can possibly recreate. And yes, potty-mouth was the order of the day, as you can see from a few of the quotes…..even though all four of the writers involved don’t use a lot of profanity in their writing.
For me, the highlights were not the quotes that PW used in its article. I was interested in Sherman Alexie’s references to how books saved him as a kid: Read More
I posted this on Catalyst Book Press’s blog but thought it appropriate for this one as well. Â
Iâ€™ve been thinking a lot lately about the problems with professionalization or the problems that institutionalization brings to professions. Although Iâ€™ve been thinking about this problem for several years, it has really come to the forefront of my mind because Iâ€™m teaching a class on Health & Healing in Sub-Saharan Africa at Stanford this spring. The first week of school, I had my students read an essay by Steve Feierman and an excerpt from a book by John M. Janzen. Both scholars touch on the medical â€œpluralismâ€ that exists in African today: though colonial states and missionaries brought biomedical health systems to the continent, they never replaced indigenous healing systems. Today, Africans (educated and uneducated, Christian or Muslim or other) access both systems for different illnesses, recognizing the legitimacy of both systems. Some of my students really struggled with this, inherently believing that biomedicine is superior because itâ€™s based on empirical evidence. Both Feierman and Janzen attempt to disprove this assumption, arguing that indigenous healing systems are also based on empirical evidence and long periods of testing different treatments. They also point out that just as indigenous health systems offer cures that are based outside of this western scientific paradigm, western science is also based on unexamined assumptions that sometimes limit its effectiveness or its ability to recognize the validity of certain cures because they are untestable or outside the system. Healing, Feierman pointed out, is mysterious. Read More
I got an email from Lee Byrd at Cinco Puntos Press today, telling me that Bobby always said he shot himself in one foot when he decided to become a poet and shot himself in the other foot when he decided to become a publisher. Then she said, “Well, you already know what it’s like not to be able to walk.” (She’s referring to the 3 months I spent in a wheelchair post-getting-hit-by-a-truck-twice while I was trying to cross a busy intersection.)
This is what scares me MOST about this new venture. The last two years in the Ph.D. program, it’s been hard hard hard to do both. I readily admit it. I am miserable, trying to do both at the same time. When I’m just writing, I’m fine. When I’m just doing the Ph.D., I’m fine (well, not fine, exactly, because I’m miserable when I’m not writing but it’s not as stressful as trying to do both at the same time.) My adviser, who has always been incredibly supportive, has told me just this: You can do both, he has said several times, but you probably can’t do both at exactly the same time. He might have used the word “sequencing.”
And now I’m publishing books. Am I crazy?
Yes, somebody shoot me now.
But this is precisely why I’m a) going to keep the number of books I publish small, very small and b) not follow the traditional publishing format.Â Tons more on that at the press’s blog, of course, in coming weeks. And here.